This time each year, amidst the warmth of year-end highlights and holiday wishes, we pause to remember those we have lost. But while it's an occasion for sadness, it's also an opportunity to celebrate their legacies in full. That's the spirit with which Jazz Night in America offers this In Memoriam episode, featuring testimonials by some of those who knew the artists best.
The mercurial genius of pianist Cecil Taylor is vividly captured by a longtime friend, poet Steve Dalachinsky. Singer-songwriter Bob Dorough receives a toast from Nellie McKay, while the tireless Village Vanguard owner Lorraine Gordon is remembered by pianist Fred Hersch. The iconic South African trumpeter and freedom fighter Hugh Masekela is memorialized in a reflection by vocalist Somi. The New Orleans piano maestro and singer Henry Butler receives his encomium from a close collaborator, trumpeter Steven Bernstein. And the bridge-building trumpeter Roy Hargrove receives his tribute from a longtime friend and collaborator: our host, Christian McBride. (Nancy Wilson, the elegant singer and former host of NPR's Jazz Profiles, died just as this episode was coming together.)
Which brings us to an important fact about this show: It's full of music to go along with the memories. The subjects of these tributes, after all, would hardly have it any other way.